Sunday, July 4, 2010
Having a Good Clear Out
The Cast of As Time Goes By
As Time Goes By became a fast favorite for me when I discovered it on PBS one Saturday night years ago. Back in the days of VCRs. I got hooked from the moment I caught Jean and Lionel, Judy, Alistair, and Sandy; not to mention Rocky and Madge and the indomitable Mrs. Bale. The last time I loved a British sitcom was in college - a vulgar show in the '80s called The Young Ones. I should be ashamed to admit it, but I do own the boxed set and do get it out every now and then to watch. Only when Bruce isn't home, though. He hates it. BUT, he does enjoy As Time Goes By and even encouraged me to replace our worn out video tapes of it a few years ago with the complete dvd set. A bargain at any price as many times as we've watched the series all the way through. In fact, recently Bruce suggested we watch it from beginning to end again this summer. I think it's a wonderful plan!
In one of the episodes, Jean is having a clear out. If I hadn't been watching I wouldn't have realized it just meant cleaning out the closet (or cupboard, or whatever). Lionel took this to mean that something was wrong - in his experience women had clear outs when something was bothering them. I do find a good clear out to be therapeutic, but I also find it to be fun - in the right frame of mind. My clear outs tend to come at the end of Christmas vacation from school after the tree is down and before the new year. Last winter my kitchen got cleared out and, amazingly, the cupboards still look nice and "rationalized".
Usually, I plan for my clear outs. You know, build up to them. Last week, however, I had one sort of sneak up on me. After staying at Breakwater House in Two Harbors for a week, I decided our house could have some of the features about that one that I really enjoyed. Namely, a more open and airy feel to it. So, I transformed my library into a breakfast room and the dining room became a little sitting area which my mother says is called a "morning room". I had fun choosing the cushions and deciding which pictures would hang in which rooms once the change was made and did it all for relatively little money. But, when it came time to sort through all those books in the library and decide which ones to leave out and which to store, when it came time to figure out how we were going to keep compact discs that had been stacked inside little peach crate tables that were going for other uses now organized and accessible, when it came time to deal with the years and years of magazines I'd accumulated . . . well, let's just say a lesser man would have said, "This was your idea, not mine" (or something profane) and walked away. Instead, Bruce helped me.
I like that he takes an interest in our home. I like that he's pleased with how it looks and feels. I like that he doesn't complain when I want to change something. He's not an eager project-taker-oner and there are certain things he'd just as soon not do, like painting. But, I've never known him to be a brute about anything I wanted to do. He may drag his feet a little sometimes, but when it comes down to it, even if I can't, for whatever reason, do the things it takes to make an idea work, he helps me get it done. In the past twelve years, he has endeavored to hang checked wallpaper for me, paint a whole lot of kitchen cupboards a rich orange maple, carry cinder blocks to the second floor to build a desk tall enough that I could see out the dormer window while sitting at it (then move them from the second floor to the basement some years later when I grew tired of the desk), maneuver innumerable heavy pieces of furniture up or down a narrow staircase that curves at the top, and transform the room that was Lucas' dark dungeon bedroom into a beach room complete with new ceiling fan blades and pulls while I was away at a conference. He has hauled at least a hundred bulging bags of clothes and shoes from my closet to the car trunk to the Salvation Army donation box, drilled holes in the top of an old table on our porch to anchor down a pretty little Christmas tree that kept blowing over in the wind, and hosted dozens of open houses without a complaint.
I see men who are ugly about their wives' little projects; who sometimes are flat mean about having to be involved in some kind of home project. If Bruce gets bored (and I'm sure he does) with my myriad and only sometimes ludicrous suggestions of how to improve our home, he never shows it. He's learned the art of letting me talk it through. Probably he's hoping I'll talk myself out of it, but if I don't, he's right there to help and encourage. And always to praise the efforts when we're through.
As time goes by, I find out more and more things to love about the man I love. As time goes by my heart becomes more and more satisfied with our life together. As time goes by, I learn how beautiful love can be and how precious it is to trust your husband with your thoughts, your hopes, your fears - even if they are silly ones like, "But what if we move the table down the hall and I hate it?" His answer is, "Live with it a year and if you still don't like it, we'll move it back." But, I know he'd do it that same night to just please me.
So, all this to say: having a clear out is a great way to spend time together. You find things long forgotten, you problem-solve together giving each other a chance to shine and be the hero, you get to stand back when you're done and experience that satisfaction of working together for a common goal, and you get to crash in each others arms that night too exhausted to do anything but watch a favorite something together. Who knew clear outs could be so romantic?